The Burnaby council chamber was packed for Tuesday night's public hearing on the master concept plan for the Brentwood Town Centre site, with people gathering outside the doors to hear the proceedings.
The proposed development is divided into four phases and would include 10 residential towers possibly ranging in height from 20 to 70 storeys, depending on their location, and two office towers ranging in height from 30 to 40 storeys. The design also includes a redeveloped commercial centre, a 50,000-square-foot food store, and a variety of public outdoor spaces.
The plan divides the 11.5-hectare site at 4515 and 4567 Lougheed Hwy. into four quadrants for development, with the first phase including the two residential towers that could range in height from 45 to 70 storeys at the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway.
One by one, concerned residents and those supporting and interested in the planning process spoke to Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, city councillors and staff.
Mark Tyson, who lives on Fairlawn Drive near the mall, spoke first, saying he did not oppose redeveloping the mall, but he was concerned about the possibility of the 70-storey towers included in the master plan.
He was also worried about the increase of traffic in the busy neighbourhood, he said, as "ratracers" are already a problem around Willingdon Avenue.
Donald Copan, who lives on Highlawn Drive, shared some of the same concerns as Tyson, adding that traffic at the intersection of Beta Avenue and Brentlawn Drive is especially unsafe.
"If there's an accident or death, it'll be at Brentlawn and Beta," he said.
Eric Anderson, who has lived in the neighbourhood since 1953 and referred to himself as "a charter member of Brentwood," said the neighbourhood could not accommodate that many new residents.
"A development at this scale is crazy," he said.
There were some questions about the scope of the project, such as how many people would be added to the neighbourhood once it is completed.
Lou Pelletier, Burnaby's director of planning and building, said the anticipated number of residential units for the Brentwood site is between 2,000 and 4,200, with approximately 2.1 people expected per unit, meaning it could house up to 8,400 people.
The current population count for Brentwood is 10,000, he said, while the capacity in the town centre plan for the area is 50,000.
Corrigan addressed some of the concerns brought forward, specifically about traffic in the area.
While the developer is working to address traffic issues connected directly with the site in the planning stages, the traffic problems in the neighbourhood overall fall under the city's jurisdiction, he reminded those attending the hearing.
The city is currently working on a transportation plan to deal with issues such as locals having access to their neighbourhoods and commuters cutting through those neighbourhoods to get to Vancouver, according to Corrigan.
"Whenever anybody asks me what's the biggest issue in Burnaby, I tell them, 'it's traffic,'" he said.
Most speakers who opposed the project said they supported redeveloping the site, albeit on a smaller scale.
And a near-equal number of people came forward to speak in favour of the project, including David Pereira.
Pereira, who completed his master's in urban studies at Simon Fraser University, said he wrote his thesis on the history of Burnaby's town centres.
The town centres in Burnaby - particularly Metrotown - have the highest density in the region, he said, and Metrotown also has the highest transit ridership.
"This plan is a long-awaited project," Pereira said, adding that the plan to make Brentwood a high-density neighbourhood has been on the books for 46 years.
Jeanne Fike, speaking on behalf of Burnaby Family Life, said the community organization also supports the project and hopes to continue to consult with the developer on how it will benefit the community.
"We think this is a tremendous opportunity of doing things differently from the past," she said.
Darren Kwiatkowski, executive vice-president of Shape Properties, which owns Brentwood Town Centre, was also at the hearing.
He addressed some of the concerns brought forward at the hearing in a followup phone interview with the NOW on Wednesday.
GAN by "To put things into perspective, the site is 28 acres," he said. "The actual density being proposed is in line with what city planning policies support for the property."
Burnaby council has made it clear that it plans to make town centres, particularly those near SkyTrain stations, high-density areas for more than 20 years, he pointed out.
The designers went with the tall-building plan to allow more light and space on the site and avoid a clustered development with lower buildings, Kwiatkowski said. The tallest towers are purposely planned to be as far from the residential homes near the northern edge of the property, and as close to the SkyTrain, as possible.
As far as traffic goes, the development design includes plans to manage the roadways on the property to avoid impacting surrounding neighbourhood, he said.
"We are extending the urban street network through our site," Kwiatkowski said, mentioning Halifax Street and Alpha Avenue will continue onto the property as private roads.
Next, Burnaby city staff will compile a report on the hearing, which will go back to council. Council will then decide whether or not to approve the master concept plan. Following that, each development phase will also go through public hearings before the parcels can be rezoned, and Shape Properties has committed to conducting more consultation with stakeholders and residents as things develop.